The IDC Group
The 7/8 grade class entered a new project cycle which meant it was time once again to choose which project would carry them through the roughly two weeks of production. Students GOT NIMBLE looking over the current Art Bazaar on their Canvas class site. There ensued a general moving of chairs and tables into groups and organizational chatter which was to be expected.
When the dust settled, five new groups had arranged themselves in new group work areas. Five new groups for only four new projects. Hmmm. One of the groups was a splinter group or a duplicate group, or? I scanned the classroom and noticed that one group was made up of students who typically refused to choose and were often oppositional as individuals. Now they had neatly arranged themselves in a single group. Were they now ready to move forward with choice?
I moved, nimbly, of course, around the class, checking to see that students were with the project group they had chosen and if the group understood from the project module how to get started. I carried my laptop with me and used a smiling tableside manner to update and make any necessary changes. The class hummed to life. (I'm making that up. It stirred and growled. Breaking inertia is unpleasant for 7th and 8th graders.)
When I finally arrived at the fifth group, I asked them what we were going to call this group. Three students said on cue, "I don't care!" Aha. The IDC group! I quickly created the group in the people link in Canvas for this class. Creating the group is a quick, tableside activity once you've gone through the process a few times. After a minute, I looked up at the group and told them that the IDC group was now official and they could go in and join the group . . . and two of the students actually did! I was already in the bonus round with these folks. To the others, I asked if it was OK for me to put their names in the group for them. No one opposed. When the group roster was complete, I smiled and asked them to chat about their new group and left them to ruminate on what being a part of a group meant.
What it meant to me was that I now had an opportunity to move these individuals forward in a small group setting. Issues like trust, confidence, the issues of student-teacher relationships, what happened this morning, and other non-content matters were on the table. I had a chance to grow a relationship with each of these students and--it took a few days of quiet persuasion--but I was finally allowed to sit with them and talk. Meanwhile, I gave them scratchboard to play with. At first, they created unspeakable images to which I became temporarily blind, but eventually I introduced Albrecht Durer and Kathe Kollwitz to them and was able to draw some surprisingly well-executed artwork from them. In the process, I created a specially modified module for the assignment. The main thing here: I was able to inch them forward as a small group, develop a working relationship with each of them and provide a path to readiness that had not existed prior to this. I certainly could not have done this in a whole group process, not with them freelancing and, likely, disrupting.
Readiness for teachers and students means--should I mention it? It means being NIMBLE enough to take a given and move forward with it.